updated 4/8/2008 9:07:12 AM ET 2008-04-08T13:07:12

Guests: Anne Kornblut, Farai Chideya, Joe Scarborough, Ed Schultz>

DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  I‘m David Gregory.

Tonight at the Clinton campaign, Mark Penn is out, but baseball is still in.  And we are live at Nationals Park in Washington as the race for the White House rolls on. 

Welcome to the race, your home for the fast pace, the smart take, and every point of view in the room.  We are in the new home of the Washington Nationals tonight, because in this town there are now two power games, campaign ‘08 and baseball. 

The new Nationals Park is less than 10 minutes from the White House, which made it pretty easy for President Bush to make the trip to throw out the first pitch here eight days ago.  And who would have predicted in an election year between (ph) a compressed primary calendar that we would still not yet have a Democratic nominee at the start of baseball‘s second week? 

At half past the hour, don‘t forget big questions of the campaign, including whether Condoleezza Rice is angling for a spot on the McCain ticket. 

The bedrock of our program tonight, a panel that comes to play.  And with us tonight, host of the nationally syndicated “Ed Schultz Show,” Ed Schultz himself; host of NPR‘s “News & Notes,” Farai Chideya; The Washington Post‘s Anne Kornblut; and Morning Joe himself, host of MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe,” Joe Scarborough. 

We begin as we do every night with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day.  It‘s “The Headline.”

My headline tonight, more turmoil in the house of Clinton.  Mark Penn, as you know by now, is out.  We‘re going to analyze the immediate fallout coming up. 

But The question I‘ve been thinking about all day is whether Penn, the campaign‘s chief pollster and strategist, will ultimately be responsible for a fundamental flaw in Senator Clinton‘s campaign.  This is how “The New York Times” reported it today.  Go to the Quote Board—“His strategy,” The Times writes,” emphasizing Mrs. Clinton‘s strength and experience—has been controversial for months.  Critics complained that his approach allowed Mr. Obama to seize the larger theme of change that has come to define the 2008 election.”

“There was something about the steady hand in charge argument.  For Clinton, it seemed problematic early on.  Perhaps the unforeseen political strength of Obama simply overwhelmed the argument, but the campaign, under Penn‘s guidance, seemed unwilling to change.  The internal arguments began to splash across the newspapers, and the upshot of all of this is that those humanizing Hillary Clinton moments have been rather few, and the historic nature of her candidacy has been overtaken or subsumed by questions of her personality and tactics.”

That‘s my take on the big story. 

Anne Kornblut from “The Washington Post,” welcome.

What‘s your take on this headline of the day? 

ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, my headline to your headline would be that Clinton campaign insiders say Mark Penn‘s ouster may be too little too late.  He has obviously been on the ropes for some time, as the article you just quoted suggested.  And more importantly, from a matter of perception, a lot of the people inside the campaign have felt that, after losing in New Hampshire, he just needed to go.  They just needed to show that the campaign shakeup was for real and that she was really going to do something differently. 

So, he‘s gone now.  They feel—you know, he will still be around at the edges doing polling.  But there‘s a concern that there‘s just not enough time left to (INAUDIBLE).

GREGORY:  All right.  I want to point out to everybody here, to the audience and to my guests as well, we have a little bit of a satellite day here, so everybody bear with us.  We‘ll try not to talk over each other, because we like to give everybody a chance to speak.  So, if we do that, it‘s because of the day.

Farai Chideya, welcome to the program.  Your headline, your take on this Penn story today? 

FARAI CHIDEYA, NPR:  Thank you.

Well, Penn‘s departure could cost Clinton heavily in Pennsylvania.  You know, on the radio show that I do, we do bread and butter every Monday, we do economics.  And with this hemorrhaging of American jobs, there‘s a real feeling among Pennsylvanians that they‘re looking at free trade. 

They didn‘t like the NAFTA deal, Democratic voters didn‘t.

GREGORY:  Right.

CHIDEYA:  And now this whole issue about Mark Penn circles back to a deal with Columbia.  And the question becomes, then, if Senator Clinton really, really didn‘t want this deal with Columbia, this free trade deal with Columbia, why was her top adviser so heavily invested in it, literally and figuratively? 

GREGORY:  Well, right.

CHIDEYA:  So that‘s really going to...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  The question is, was she representing—was Penn representing her campaign or was he representing his firm, his PR firm, where he also kept his job?  That‘s a real question. 

CHIDEYA:  He was representing his firm, but  -- he was representing his firm, but, of course, you know, people will question her judgment in keeping him on retainer. 

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough, your take on this subject today? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE”:  Well, I‘ve got to say—and I agree, there‘s a big question when it comes to Mark Penn about the judgement of allowing him to stay on at his consulting job while running Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.  I‘ve been saying for some time, Hillary Clinton can still win the nomination.  She can still win in Denver, but for her to do it, she has got to run the table. 

There was this moment during the 2000 election when Florida had turned and was a tossup.  You remember Dan Rather saying, “Yes, George Bush can still win.  The odds are very small, but he can win if he wins the table.”

That‘s where Hillary Clinton is right now.  She can still win, but she‘s got to run the table.  She‘s got to play flawless ball.  And she‘s not doing it. 

You have got the Penn debacle this weekend that everybody‘s talking about. 

GREGORY:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘ve got the release of the taxes, $109 million earned since the Clintons got out of the White House.  It doesn‘t exactly help your populist crowd in Pennsylvania.

Then finally, you have what I think is the most damning story, is the exaggeration of the young woman who died in Ohio because she couldn‘t give $100 to a hospital and she didn‘t have health insurance.  That ends up not being true.  And following Bosnia, that could have a long-term negative impact on Hillary Clinton on the trust issue. 

GREGORY:  All right.  We‘re going to talk a lot about Mark Penn tonight. 

Ed Schultz, welcome to the program.  What is your headline today?

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  David, good to be with you.

I think the big story tonight is John McCain.  John McCain gave a speech down in front of the VFW today in Kansas City and attacked both Democratic candidates for their position on Iraq.  And he totally ignored the GI bill.  Listen to what McCain said about Obama and Clinton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Honesty is my responsibility.  And it is also the responsibility of Senators Obama and Clinton. 

Four thousand Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of our failure in Iraq.  In such a grave matter, we must put the nation‘s interest before our own ambitions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The big story here is that the GI bill is the focal point of the VFW.  The veterans right now, they want this. 

Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel bill brought up and passing (ph).  They want John McCain to sign on with it as nine other Republicans already have done that.  So, I think this is the big story tonight.  And it could be some real blow-back for the McCain campaign. 

GREGORY:  You know...

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s certainly stepping up his...

GREGORY:  Yes, go ahead Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m so sorry.  Again, the delay. 

But, you know, David, this is yet another example of how in this campaign year, what is up is down and what is down is up.  Here you have John McCain on the issue of Iraq attacking Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are saying let‘s get out.  Most Americans are saying let‘s get out.

But you look at the internals in the polls, the only issue where John McCain has a commanding lead is on the issue of Iraq.  He is leading Barack Obama by 14 percentage points on the question, who do Americans trust more to handle Iraq?  That is stunning. 

Democrats have to get their arms around it.  I can‘t explain it, I don‘t know if they can. 

GREGORY:  All right.  We‘re going to get a break in here. 

Coming up, one of our panelists tonight, Ed Schultz, has been in the middle of a campaign story himself, under fire for calling John McCain a “warmonger.”  We‘re going to talk to Ed about that when we come back. 

And as if Hillary Clinton doesn‘t already have enough to worry about, take a look at these recent pictures of her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe?  I don‘t know, is it a little foreshadowing?  Is he hedging his bets?

What‘s going on here?  A few snaps today in the blogosphere. 

THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE from Nationals Park coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

We are unlocking the doors, heading inside the war rooms of the presidential campaigns, to determine which strategies are working, which are not. 

Back with us, Ed Schultz, Farai Chideya, Anne Kornblut and Joe Scarborough.

First up, our own panelist tonight, Ed Schultz, when warming up an audience at an Obama fundraiser in North Dakota, caused quite a stir when he launched an attack at John McCain saying the following: “He voted for this war, he‘s a perpetrator of the war, he‘s an advocate of the war.  In my personal definition, that‘s a warmonger.”

The McCain camp called on Obama to condemn the remarks, and the Obama camp is responding with this statement.  To the quote board—“John McCain is not a warmonger and should not be described as such.  He is a supporter of the war that Senator Obama believes should have never been authorized and never been waged.”

Ed Schultz, on the program tonight, do you regret making those comments about John McCain? 

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely not, David.  He is a warmonger.  His policies and his positions on Iraq certainly parallel that of a warmonger.  And he fits the description. 

I‘m really surprised at the McCain camp, how they got their back over this.  Number one, I don‘t speak for Barack Obama.  Barack Obama doesn‘t speak for me.  I did not introduce him at this event. 

I was asked by the North Dakota Democrats to come in and warm up the crowd, and that‘s exactly what I did.  And in this speech, I talked about those who opposed the policy and those who were in favor of it.  And I don‘t think there‘s any question that the labeling of John McCain as a warmonger, he fits the description. 

He has no end game in Iraq.  He wants to throw the Russians out of the G8.  Just this weekend, he talked about upgrading the United States military and didn‘t offer any way on how they were going to pay for it. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  Ed, let me just interject here.  I think critics of you would raise a couple of points. 

One is, somebody who knows war, who has fought in a war, let alone been a war prisoner, is not somebody who likes war.  And number two is, his record also demonstrates that while he did vote for the war, authorized the war, supported the surge, he was also quite critical of the management of this war and of Don Rumsfeld. 

Is it really fair to level that judgment against him? 

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely, it is, because he has failed to offer any kind of end game in Iraq.  He continues to support this failed Bush policy in Iraq.  He has not set deadlines.  He‘s not talked about drawing down troops. 

Heck, we all want to get out of Iraq.  But has anybody got a checkbook?  I mean, this is gutting the infrastructure of America.  And John McCain wants to continue on with a third Bush policy.  And the American people are not with him on this.  He won‘t pivot...

GREGORY:  All right. 

SCHULTZ:  ... and get into any negotiations at all.  He‘s a warmonger. 

GREGORY:  Let me move on. 

Next up, Hillary Clinton is trying to win over the antiwar voter with a new twist in her stump speech.  Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When Senator Obama came to the Senate, he and I voted exactly the same except for one vote, and that happens to be the facts.  We both voted against early deadlines.  I actually started criticizing the war in Iraq before he did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Anne Kornblut, does that make sense to you? 

KORNBLUT:  Well, the campaign‘s explanation for her saying that she started criticizing the war before he did is to narrow the time frame.  They said she wasn‘t talking about before the war, she‘s only talking about since the time they have both been in the Senate. 

The Obama campaign has pointed to statements he made before she did, even within that narrow time frame, suggesting that he was critical of it before she was.  So, that said, this goes over well with her crowds. 

A lot of people in her crowds, I can tell you, having traveled with her a lot, are looking for a way to explain her war vote.  A lot of them are antiwar people. 

GREGORY:  Right.

KORNBLUT:  Often she gets questions saying, “What do I tell my friends about why you voted for the war?”  Or, “I really like you.  Why‘d you vote for it?”  So, I think this is her way of trying to give her audiences something to hold on to.  Not really sure it sticks.

GREGORY:  But, Joe Scarborough, you know that the Democratic primary voter is pretty well acquainted with their feelings about the war.  They also know that Hillary Clinton voted for the war. 

Does it really make any sense whatsoever to come out and say, well, I started criticizing before him, as if nobody remembers the vote? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I don‘t think it makes sense for her to do it in April.  I‘ve actually been saying since last summer the thing that I kept looking for—and I actually asked Obama people that would come on the show—is -- I‘d say, “Name one vote that you have taken that‘s different than Hillary Clinton‘s since you‘ve been in the United States Senate.”

She should have started beating this drum six, nine months ago, because there really isn‘t a lot of difference between Barack Obama.  And that‘s when she can say talk is cheap.  OK, great, he gave a speech in 2002, but since he‘s come to the U.S. Senate, can he name a single vote where we‘ve differed?

And for the most part, he can‘t.  But again, I think too little too late. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Let‘s move on. 

Finally, Hillary Clinton has been using a rather dark and gloomy tactic to hammer home support for her health care plan.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  The doctors and the nurses tried very hard, but they weren‘t able to save her baby.  For 15 days in the intensive care unit, doctors and nurses worked heroically, but she died.  It is so wrong in such a good, great and rich country that a young woman and her baby would die because she didn‘t have health insurance or $100 to get examined. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  The problem is, some reports say the story isn‘t true.  O‘Bleness Memorial Hospital in Ohio says the woman was not denied medical care and that she actually had insurance. 

Chideya, it‘s again raising some questions about the anecdote she‘s telling on the trail and her trustworthiness. 

CHIDEYA:  Well, there‘s a question about how she got this anecdote in the first place, that it was probably a secondhand, recycled account.  It‘s very dramatic, but obviously, when you tell stories, you know, on the stump, you really have to be sure about where they are coming from. 

But I think it also points out a completely interesting rhetorical and stylistic narrative where Senator Clinton seems to have been getting juiced from really talking about worst-case scenarios.  And Senator Obama has been choosing the best-case scenarios—hope, change, et cetera.  They‘re both rhetorical.

GREGORY:  Yes.

All right.  Coming up—we‘re going to take a break here. 

Thanks to their newly-released tax returns, we now know the Clintons earned $109 million since 2000.  How will all of that resonate with middle America?

And later in the show, it‘s your turn to play with the panel.  Call us, 212-790-2299. or e-mail us at race08@msnbc.com

The Race from Nationals Park in Washington tonight is coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back now with our Smart Takes.  From the provocative, to the thoughtful, to the most informed, we track it down so you don‘t have to. 

Here again, Ed, Farai, Anne and Joe.

Our first Smart Take tonight, Bill Kristol says a surprising number of Democrats have told him they think John McCain will beat Barack Obama in November.  To the Quote Board.

“One Democrat told me he was struck by the current polls showing a dead-even race, suggesting both a surprising openness to McCain among Americans who disapprove of Bush and a striking hesitation among the same voters about Obama.  A congressional staffer said McCain‘s secret weapon among Clinton supporters me be Hillary‘s 3:00 a.m. national security ad.”

“An experienced Democratic operative emailed... ‘Obama isn‘t growing in stature.  Once I thought he could be Jimmy Carter, but now he reminds me more of Michael Dukakis.  Plus, he doesn‘t have a clue how to talk to the middle class.  He‘s in the Stevenson reform mold out of Illinois, with a dash of Harvard disease thrown in.”

Ed Schultz, do you buy it? 

SCHULTZ:  No, I don‘t, David.  Everything they seem to throw at Barack Obama, nothing sticks. 

This guy is so far above the tree line, he‘s so far above the fray.  I think he‘s calm, cool, collected, poised, intelligent.  And I really think that he is closing the gap, closer and closer every day in Pennsylvania. 

I think he‘s going to win Pennsylvania.  And you can throw those McCain polls out.  I think McCain is going to be the easiest guy the Democrats have ever had to beat in a  general election. 

GREGORY:  Our next Smart Take from “Saturday Night Live.”  This is for Joe. 

Had some fun with the Clintons‘ tax returns.  Take a look at this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... those darn tax returns came out and it was discovered we were rich.  Of course, this new information just means we‘ll have to get out of the race. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s true.  It‘s right.  Since it was discovered that Bill and I know how to make money, it has become apparent that I am the wrong choice for millions of Americans who don‘t seem able to make money. 

(END VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

GREGORY:  But, you know, Hoe, this cuts both ways, right?  You mentioned at the top of the program there may—you know, it doesn‘t actually help your populist street cred when this kind of stuff comes out.  But I think the point that Bill Kristol was making as well about Barack Obama and whether he can appeal to working class voters, that has yet to be demonstrated in big states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, even though he demonstrated it in Virginia. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It really has.  It‘s interesting that Barack Obama is not an FDR or Truman-like Democratic figure.  He‘s more like Adlai Stevenson—the intellectual class, the affluent. 

And really, the tax returns, it‘s something the Clintons would prefer not to have had come out this weekend with all the other distractions with Penn and the Ohio story.  But I just mentioned FDR. 

Here was a guy that was born into privilege, that the Clintons will never understand, from his first days, and yet he was the person who—you talk to my family in rural Georgia, he was the hero.  He was the populist.  He was the guy that saved them. 

So, I don‘t think money is an automatic disqualifier. 

GREGORY:  Farai, what do you think about the two things that we‘ve just put up there so far? 

CHIDEYA:  Well, you know, it‘s one of these things where, as a former president—being a former president is a pretty good gig.  And most of the wealth that‘s flowing in to the Clinton family comes from that—you know, the post-presidential money push.  That certainly doesn‘t disqualify Senator Clinton from being president.  But I do think that in this race, there are a lot of complicated class dynamics. 

GREGORY:  Anne, comment? 

KORNBLUT:  Well, I completely agree.  And I think the question isn‘t going to be so much whether they are millionaires, as much as whether they act like millionaires, live like millionaires, talk like millionaires.

So far, the rhetoric the Clintons have used, both President and Senator Clinton on the campaign trail, is very populist.  They laugh at the fact that they‘ve suddenly got all this money.

On the other hand, it shows that they really have a lot.  And they have these two nice houses.  They live like former presidents of the White House with big entourages.  So, the question is whether that ever gets used against them.  So far, as they‘ve both said, they have got other fish to fry at the moment, other things to worry about. 

GREGORY:  All right.  We‘re going to take a break here. 

Coming up next, General David Petraeus heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow.  (INAUDIBLE) here on MSNBC.  And he‘ll be asked by all three presidential hopefuls some pretty straight questions about Iraq. 

Will this face-off reshape the war debate? 

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  We‘ll come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Still ahead from National Park in Washington, the “3 Questions” on the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, including this:  Condoleezza Rice for VP?  Could she be John McCain‘s ticket to the White House?  That‘s next. 

But first, a check of your headlines. 

(NEWSBREAK)

GREGORY:  Back now on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory.  Tonight, from National Park in Washington, why are we here?  Because, as I said, there are two big games in Washington right now—the campaign for the White House and Nationals baseball. 

Baseball is also big with a new ballpark in this town.  That‘s why we‘re here tonight.  And now, time for the “3 Questions.” 

Still with us, host of the nationally syndicated “Ed Schultz Show,” Ed Schultz himself, host of NPR‘s “News & Notes,” Farai Chideya, and “The Washington Post” Anne Kornblut, as well as the host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough. 

First up, the top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, will testify tomorrow before two Senate committees, and all three presidential candidates, Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama will all have the opportunity to question the general.  That could spark some fiery exchanges. 

The last time Petraeus was on the Hill, Clinton said his report of progress in Iraq require a willing suspension of disbelief. 

So our first question today: how will the candidates face-off with General Petraeus, reshape the war debate? 

Joe, what do you think? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I just don‘t think it will.  And again, if you look at these poll numbers, some surprising poll numbers and I know a lot of people out there may say, well, you‘re saying this because he‘s a former Republican congressman, I‘m not, I—you‘ve got John McCain up 14 percentage points against the two Democratic candidates on handling the war on Iraq.  It seems counter intuitive, but Americans like somebody that knows what they believe in and is willing to fight for what they believe in. 

Tomorrow, you watch.  John McCain will be the one guy that will be charging for it.  I think you‘re going to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both treading a bit carefully because he can even talk to critics of the war that have been over there.  Journalists, they will tell you the security situation has improved over the last six months. 

The Democrats need to be careful, John McCain is going to just go waiting full in and he‘ll probably be rewarded for it in the polls. 

GREGORY:  Right.  It is a danger, Ed Schultz, I think, for the Democrats if they come in trying to upend General Petraeus.  Yes, you‘ve got the Basra situation, you‘ve got new violence, you still have not enough, not anywhere near enough political progress, and that‘s even by General Petraeus‘s own admission. 

But as Joe suggests, coming in there trying to upend the idea that there hasn‘t been some kind of security progress, I think, will be difficult.  What do you say? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think if General Petraeus comes in, David, and asks for more time and more money to the American people, it‘s going to sound like the same old report card.  I mean how much actual progress politically has been made in the last six months or the last year? 

I think Barack Obama stands to be the big winner in this entire conversation because he has been against the war from the start, even though he voted the same way with Hillary Clinton, the debate changed.  The debate talked about supporting the troops and ending the mission.  So this time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  By that, can you explain why he is down 14 percentage points to John McCain in the head-to-head match-ups in Iraq? 

SCHULTZ:  You know, Joe, that‘s speculation upon speculation.  We‘re a long way away from the November general election.  The fact is, is that John McCain said not long ago that al-Sadr was losing his influence. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, which would probably be that he‘s. 

SCHULTZ:  Now what do you think after the last month? 

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s 14 percentage points ahead of Barack Obama despite all of these mess ups. 

SCHULTZ:  What is the actual situation on the ground?  How many billions of dollars have we spent to get where we are right now closer to a political situation?  That‘s how the American people are going to view this testimony.  Everybody‘s in favor of the troops.  Everybody wants conclusion, but this surge has not offered the kind of solution that the American people are looking for. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Don‘t tell that to the American people. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me get in here.  I‘m going to move on. 

Next up, is Condoleezza Rice looking to jump on John McCain‘s ticket?  Former White House advisor Dan Senor who was over in Iraq, as you remember, with Paul Bremer, says Secretary of State Rice is, quote, “actively campaigning for the VP spot.” 

NBC‘s own Kelly O‘Donnell asked McCain about this issue on the plane. 

Take a look at this. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Senator, there was talk on the Sunday shows about Condoleezza Rice. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  .sending signals that she might be open to be an invitation to be your running mate? 

MCCAIN:  I did not hear that.  I missed those signals.  I think she‘s a great American.  I think there‘s very little that I can say that isn‘t anything but the utmost praise for a great American citizen who served as a role model to so many millions of people in this country and around the world. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREGORY:  Condoleezza Rice has said, by the way, in the past that she is not interested in being on the ticket. 

Our second question tonight: would a Vice President Rice be John McCain‘s ace if she were on the ticket? 

Anne, what do you say? 

KORNBLUT:  It‘s a really interesting concept.  And of course, she said over and over that she‘s not interested, they all do until they‘re actually invited to be on the ticket. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  So I think even when they say never, it doesn‘t always mean never.  In the case of Secretary Rice, she‘s been around this whole Bush administration term.  The prospect of leaving office now before the mission is complete, so to speak, in Iraq and looking at the prospect. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  .of a Democratic ticket, that include the first African-American on it, has got to be very appealing to her.  So there are a lot of things about it that may not make sense at the first blush, but when you think about it, really might. 

GREGORY:  Yes.  Well, Farai, I think it—there may be some clear upsides to it and I don‘t think that campaigns are all about issues.  They‘re really about personality and authenticity and personal attributes.  Nevertheless, if John McCain wants to turn that page on the Bush administration particularly on Iraq, I don‘t see how you do that with Condoleezza Rice. 

CHIDEYA:  Well, the question then becomes, you know, what does Condoleezza Rice symbolize?  Because in addition to the question of whether or not John McCain would be bringing along an unwanted part of the Bush legacy, there‘s also a question, for example—I think many people admire Condoleezza Rice, but many people also don‘t like her based not just—you know, not on a stylistic issue, but on what she represents within the administration. 

And I think if you look at the African-American communities and voters you find a real degree of ambivalence about her as a figure, liking the fact that she‘s achieved this greatness, but also disliking how she‘s operated.  So if you‘re talking about swing voters and cross-over voters, I‘m not sure that she‘s going to get them. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Finally today, North Carolina will hold its primary May 6th.  It‘s an important one.  And today, a new poll out from the Tar Heel state has some revealing numbers. 

In the Democratic race, Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton, 35 percent to 26 percent, with 39 percent of likely voters saying they are undecided.  The poll also looked at the general election asking voters where their top consideration would be in picking a candidate in November.  Nearly 90 percent said trust.  And here‘s how they rate the candidates‘ trustworthiness.  Fifty-four percent said they view John McCain as trust worthy, 48 percent say Obama is trustworthy, but only 25 percent say Clinton is trustworthy. 

And Anne Kornblut, they have got to be concerned about that number in particular. 

KORNBLUT:  Absolutely.  It‘s one of the top Clinton campaign worries.  It‘s one of the reasons that you didn‘t see a lot of debate over what to do with Mark Penn.  Voters have—really the incident—Senator Clinton‘s discussion of what happened to her when she land on the tarmac in Bosnia really hurt, and it hurt because it played into this concept of her as not telling the truth, as saying anything to win, a point, by the way, that the Obama campaign has been making for many weeks now and it seems to have sunk in. 

So this is among, I would say, their top concerns right now.  It‘s a character issue and they haven‘t yet. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

KORNBLUT:  .found a way to really counter it. 

GREGORY:  Joe, real quick on that.  Big undecided chunk.  I think it‘s striking for a primary in May with so many debates and so much debate and conversation about this campaign, what does that tell you about the nature of the electorate in North Carolina based on this poll? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well. 

GREGORY:  What are they looking to find out? 

SCARBOROUGH:  What it tells me is those of us in Washington and New York who‘ve been smug and condescending and have been said enough, enough, we‘ve had enough debates, we‘ve had enough, we‘ve had enough news coverage.  You know, the Clinton‘s have a point.  Bill Clinton has a point.  Let the people vote.  Let everybody have their say. 

And, you know, people in North Carolina, just like people in Pennsylvania, have been living their lives.  The candidates haven‘t come to their neighborhoods.  The commercials haven‘t been on their local news shows.  When that starts happening, they start focusing in. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think it‘s great that people are still undecided.  And it gives Hillary Clinton some hope.  If she can win in Pennsylvania and pull off an upset in North Carolina, then she may be on her way to a very interesting time in Denver. 

GREGORY:  It is interesting.  Real quick here, Ed.  It is interesting.  Ed Rendell, we talked about earlier saying oh yes, we think she‘s very strong here, but we‘re now saying between five and 10 percentage points.  They‘ve got an issue here with what they can define as victory, don‘t they? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, they certainly do.  Oh I‘m sorry. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think that a lot of people are underestimating the boots on the ground and the infrastructure, the social networking that Barack Obama has.  I wouldn‘t pick against Obama in Pennsylvania.  He‘s closing the gap and he‘s moving strong on the stomp. 

And I think that in North Carolina is concerned, if John Edwards is going to make a move, if he‘s going to go with Hillary Clinton, he ought to come out before Pennsylvania because she‘s going to need the help. 

GREGORY:  It‘s an interesting point.  One point about Pennsylvania, though, and Barack Obama.  He can also get into trouble if the commentary decide he can actually win this thing and so he‘s talking about that and then he doesn‘t.  So the expectations game goes in a lot of directions. 

Hey, a quick programming note here.  Tonight, on the “VERDICT WITH DAN ABRAMS,” he‘s going to interview former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman, out of jail, just 10 days—Siegelman, rather, excuse me—accuses Karl Rove of trying to destroy his political career and wants Rove to testify before Congress about his prosecution.  That‘s tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  That‘s the “VERDICT” right here on MSNBC. 

And coming up, we are not only the ones talking about Mark Penn‘s demotion on the Clinton campaign.  A lot of you have a lot to say about it.  Your e-mails and voice mails are coming up next. 

And not too late to play with the panel.  Call us, 212-790-2299 and e-mail us at Race08@MSNBC.com

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back live here at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. 

Your turn now to step up to bat and “Play with the Panel.” 

And still with us, Ed Schultz, Farai Chideya, Anne Kornblut and Joe Scarborough. 

First eight—first up rather, Alice in New Jersey thinks the Mark Penn flap may be the last straw. 

Listen. 

ALICE, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT:  How could any clear-thinking American voter or a press person separate out the judgment question for Hillary Clinton whether hiring Mark Penn, her Iraq vote, her stretches on Bosnia and the death of a woman having no health care not being true, and her shame-on-you tactics.  How can anyone separate out the judgment from the judger? 

GREGORY:  My guess is that Alice is never a big Hillary supporter. 

Joe, let me ask you a more basic question even for those of us who are following the ins and outs of this.  Why does it matter that Penn is out at this point?  If you think about your campaign and you‘re trying to appeal to voters, why does something like this matter? 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I don‘t want to upset the caller, but I just don‘t think it does.  I just—I would be—we would be hard pressed to find one out of 100 people in Pennsylvania who knows Mark Penn, what Mark Penn does.  I mean this isn‘t the sort of thing that they grab hold to.  They do grab hold to exaggerations in Bosnia and the exaggerations with the woman in the hospital. 

But Mark Penn, that is so inside baseball.  Who knows?  Who cares?  It‘s just like in the House scandal.  Most Americans don‘t know who Jack Abramoff was but they sure has heck knew who Tom DeLay was.  They got that.  I think. 

GREGORY:  Right.  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I just think Penn is too inside baseball. 

GREGORY:  But to the extent, Anne, that it becomes such a dominant narrative that Hillary Clinton has to deal with, it, A, either distracts her, distracts the campaign, and forces them to recalibrate their message, when they‘re spending most of their time doing that. 

KORNBLUT:  Absolutely.  And I think it‘s true.  Most people—Mark Penn is not a household name at this point.  But I do think the perception and it‘s been put out there by the Obama campaign—no question about it, it doesn‘t come from nowhere, and the caller sounds like she‘s definitely gotten the Obama message.  But I think that the idea that she hasn‘t been able to run her own shop efficiently, that she was unaware of what Mark Penn was up to, and that for some liberal Democrats that she was sort of a pro-business centrist Democrat who was allowing her campaign strategist to lobby on behalf of a free-trade agreement. 

I think all of it taken together will probably get through. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  Simply because we‘re going to be talking about it for a few days and that isn‘t good for Senator Clinton. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Next up, Viola in California has a preview of what‘s to come during the General Petraeus testimony tomorrow.  She says, “General Petraeus is going to give a glowing report on Iraq to help McCain get elected and then they will send even more troops to Iraq.  That ploy of drawing down brigades is only a cover-up to help McCain elected.” 

I would suggest that is a bit cynical for—especially since General Petraeus has served the country as well as he has a long—even before this war. 

But Farai, it does speak to an issue here about political context that he is stepping into, both from the point of view of the presidential campaign, but also you‘ve got a incumbent president in George Bush who does not want to give up any gains that may be there on the ground knowing that this is going to go on well past his time in office anyhow. 

CHIDEYA:  Well, you know, today, on our show, we had on Major General William Gaskin who was leading this 25,000-person troop in—troop force in Al Anbar Province.  And that, you know, he‘s a Marine major general.  And the question then becomes, you know, he gave us his take on Basra and Al Anbar. 

But if the surge is working, the question becomes, well, why would you diminish it?  And it‘s this really tough. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

CHIDEYA:  .pivot that people from Petraeus to the president, to McCain to the Democratic contenders are going to have to deal with.  If it‘s—if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it.  But does that mean that you leave more troops on the ground? 

GREGORY:  Yes, I do think—before I move on—I mean I think Ed‘s point is important, which is there is a financial cost to staying in Iraq.  And I do think a lot of Americans are wondering at what cost do we stay, if there‘s not any real progress, that‘s a big part of the debate. 

Moving on, Hillary Clinton this morning thought she should get some extra points for hair and make up. 

Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Do you realize how much longer it takes me to get ready than my two opponents?  I mean really.  Just think about it.  I think I should get points for working as hard as I do, plus having to spend so much time getting ready. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  One of our viewers, Dale, had a different take on the senator‘s remarks and he writes this: “Hillary would not be able to answer the 3:00 a.m. phone call until 3:30.  It takes her an additional half hour to get ready.” 

Funny point.  See that—but that‘s a funny point. 

Anne, I do think these are fairly rare, these very humanizing moments. 

It‘s a funny bit she had. 

KORNBLUT:  It was.  It was—I was there when she said it yesterday in (INAUDIBLE), and we all looked up from our laptop and though, wow, that‘s - - she‘s offered talking points.  Of course, it does raise the question of how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, David, but—we won‘t even go there. 

GREGORY:  Yes, exactly, please. 

Moving on, Andrea in New York has this (INAUDIBLE) Clinton tax returns story.  She says, “Voters may see the Clinton‘s tax returns as positive if the Clintons leaving the White House with not that much wealth can put together such monies for themselves.  Americans may believe Hillary can do the same for the country.” 

I don‘t know, Ed, I look at that story about their wealth.  There was certainly a very sizable contribution to charity as well, which is something that we all tend to focus on that when we analyze these things for politicians.  Do you see any issue there for them? 

SCHULTZ:  You know, I really don‘t, David, because the Clinton‘s have always been servers of the government and the people.  They never got into this thinking that there‘d be a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  You know, Bill Clinton had a very successful run for eight years.  He‘s in demand.  Most of their money came off the speeches.  They both wrote successful books.  They‘re very popular internationally.  Clintons got some -- Bill Clinton has some big international business connections. 

I don‘t think the American people are going to begrudge anybody for making a living.  But the question is, and I think the betting process is going to have to be done on this, who donated to the Clinton library. 

GREGORY:  All right. 

SCHULTZ:  .and what favors were done?  I think the American people want to know about that. 

GREGORY:  Right.  All right.  I got to get a break in here.  Predictions, coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We are back live from Nationals Park where it‘s getting a little bit loud here over the Washington Nationals baseball team here in D.C.  And we are turning to our panelists for their predictions. 

And here again, Ed, Farai, Anne and Joe. 

I‘m actually going to begin with my own prediction tonight.  And my prediction is uncertainty in the U.S.-Russia relations.  I was really struck, looking at the pictures, and Anne will appreciate this, of Putin and Bush together for the last time in Russia, ambling down the pier in Russia and taking in one last sunset together.  I just thought this was the perfect bookend of their relationship. 

I remember being there in Slovenia at their first meeting when the president said that he looked in Putin‘s soul and realized he was somebody he could trust, only to find out it was a much more complex relationship as they move forward, whether it was Iraq or Iran issues in between, including reforms in Russia became a much trickier relationship.  And Russia, in the end, did not really appear to be the ally that I think President Bush thought that he would be. 

The prediction, for a new president, there is still Putin who will be sticking around, because Putin is going to be in office for quite awhile.  How much power he actually has, that‘s a big question but he‘s going to be around. 

Joe, what‘s your prediction tonight? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I predict also a very complicated relationship there.  It‘s certainly nothing like the 1988 farewell between Reagan and Gorbachev. 

My prediction, though, has to do with what‘s going to be happening tomorrow, the Petraeus testimony, most likely going to be a win politically for John McCain.  Again, counter intuitive.  But as I‘ve said before, John McCain fairing much better with the American people on the issue of Iraq.  Who do you trust more on the Iraq war?  John McCain beats Hillary Clinton by 14 percentage points, and when he‘s matched up against Barack Obama, it‘s the same thing. 

And this all goes back—and this is the Democrats‘ problems on Iraq, has been over the past six years.  It goes back to something that Bill Clinton once said, which is better to speak with might than to be right, which mean, if you know what you believe and you‘re willing to fight for it. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .and you go 90 miles an hour, people get out of your way. 

That seems to be happening now. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Ed, your prediction? 

SCHULTZ:  I think this is going to be a big week for Barack Obama.  I think you‘re going to see him break out in the polls this week for—because of a number of different things.  He‘s going to go up to Capitol Hill and no matter what General Petraeus says, all he has to do is ask a few questions, how much is this going to cost, how much progress did we make, and how long are we going to be in Iraq, and he‘s going to let the American people judge because he‘ll say that‘s not going to happen if I‘m president. 

The other thing is the hospital story with Hillary Clinton and the departure of Mark Penn shows that Hillary Clinton cannot manage egos within her campaign.  That‘s going to be a judgment call by the American people. 

I think it‘s going to be big week for Barack Obama. 

GREGORY:  All right, Anne, your call tonight.  What do you see? 

KORNBLUT:  My prediction is that the Hillary hospital story is going to, perhaps, have a surprise ending.  And I‘m cheating a little bit in making this prediction because I actually am writing about this for tomorrow‘s paper so I will say that it appears. 

GREGORY:  I like that. 

KORNBLUT:  Yes.  It‘s a great way to make a prediction, isn‘t it?  Very safe bet.  It appears that there may be another hospital involved and relatives of the woman who died in the story are considering how to handle talking about this.  They have felt under siege.  But in the end, it may turn out that Hillary Clinton was closer to the truth than we thought she was except a lot of miscommunication in this story. 

GREGORY:  All right.  I got about 20 seconds left, Farai.  Take it.  What do you see tonight? 

CHIDEYA:  All right.  This came out of a conversation we had on air today with a blogger.  Does John McCain have PTSD?  It‘s a question people are asking.  He was supposed to release his medical records next week.  He decided to delay until next month.  He obviously has been through torture.  There‘s no shame if he went into counseling.  The question is, did he?  And is his explosive temper a result of some of the things he went through? 

GREGORY:  Right.  All right. 

Thanks very much to a great panel.  Thanks for having us in from Nationals Park tonight. 

You know, Joe Scarborough said something that really is true.  That ultimately, our politics, everything about America comes back to baseball, right, Joe?  That‘s why we‘re here. 

Thanks very much.  We‘ll see you back 6:00 Eastern tomorrow.  Thanks to Chris Gargani and the Nats team for letting us in, and go Nats.  Take care. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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